“I think I’d better drive,” Liam said quietly.
“Yeah, well fuck you!”
“You present a compelling argument, but I still think I should drive.”
“Sitting there, looking at the guy who destroyed everything in my life that means anything to me –”
“ – Hey.”
“And laughing. I don’t give a damn if he’s funny. Do you have any idea how hard it is to kill someone; to know that a stupid number of people mourned each of the thirty-nine people I’ve killed, no matter how bad they were? I don’t want to know that he’s funny, I don’t want to know he’s human! I want to think of him as a piece of livestock to be slaughtered, butchered, and fed to my customers.” Tears streaked down Chef’s cheeks. He gave up trying to put the key into the ignition. The leather seat welcomed him in a temperature-controlled embrace. “I want her back, Liam.”
“Amberly.” Chef closed his eyes, fighting to keep his voice level and failing. “She won’t even look at me any more. How do you recover from that? How do you maintain a marriage and be afraid to so much as hug your wife? You know more than anyone the things I do for her, but the way she looks at me … like I’m a stranger.”
“Believe me, I know that feeling, Chef,” Liam said. “Marriages like that don’t last long. Well, mine didn’t, when it got to that point.”
“How did you deal with it?”
“Do you really want to know?”
Chef nodded, unwilling – or possibly unable – to open his eyes.
“I had a lot of sex with a lot of different women, one of them the waitress here.” Liam chuckled softly. “That’s probably why the service has been so shitty the last few times we’ve come around, actually.”
“You get bored of her?” Chef smiled. In many ways, though he hated to admit it, it was nice that some things would never change. His dearest friend would always be as he always had been. A lecher.
“My best friend’s life went to hell. I stopped calling her, and every other girl I’d messed around with.” Liam reclined until his seat wouldn’t go back any further. “I watched my best friend lose the only things in his life that meant anything –”
“I didn’t mean –”
“– That meant anything to him.”
Liam let the words hang in the air for a moment before continuing.
“The reason your marriage is falling apart is because somebody came in and destroyed it from the outside. You have someone to blame, someone you can hunt down. Imagine how I feel for a second. I know beyond a reasonable doubt that I destroyed my marriage.” Liam seethed. “You want to talk to me about how hard it is to kill someone you don’t know? I saw Kate’s eyes when she stepped into my office, that day. Forget that we hadn’t been happy for months before that, she was excited to see me, to surprise me at work, to tell me she loved me. I watched that excitement die. I watched her die, Chef.”
“Oh,” Chef’s voice ghosted from his mouth.
“I’m not dealing with this. At all. I stopped sleeping with other women about eight years too late. There isn't anything I can do any more. You're all I've got left, and the only thing I can do for either of us is try to help you try and save your marriage.”
“I didn’t know that this meant anything to you,” Chef said.
“You didn’t ask.” Liam had put an arm over his eyes, he looked to be sleeping, and judging by the sound of his voice, for the first time in weeks. “Look, Skip and Liz have a good handle on things. They’re going to drop us both a text with anything they find, okay? We’re going to get this guy. So until we hear anything, you just focus on keeping your family together, maybe take them out for ice cream or something.”
Chef laughed until his insides hurt.